Photo: Michael Hanson

Get to know this low-key and cultured Whidbey Island charmer, and one of the 20 Best Places to Live 2017. Get the inside scoop on Langley, including where to eat, drink, play, and stay. 

Just one hour north of Seattle in Puget Sound, Whidbey Island’s tiny waterfront village has a picturesque townscape that feels a bit like New England, a sunny climate (thanks to the rain shadow) that shines like Southern California, and a drumbeat of outdoor pursuits like kayaking and hiking that are pure Pacific Northwest. What more perfect combination for a sense of escape that still connects to civilization via great coffee, excellent restaurants, and an arts scene that punches above its weight? An added benefit to Langley life is its very location in Puget Sound, placing it in a network of ferry-linked islands that stand ready for weekend adventure all year round.

Langley by the Numbers

Population: 1,077   
Average July high: 71
Average January low: 37
Median home price: $366,700
Average commute time: 34 minutes
Number of sunny days: 162

Best Beaches and Other Attractions

Just 10 minutes south of town, Double Bluff Beach is one of Whidbey Island’s rare sandy beaches, and it’s dog-welcoming in the off-leash kind of way. On clear days, look for Mount Rainier on the horizon.

Get out and play on the water with Whidbey Island Kayaking, which runs guided day and night kayaking tours as well as special bird watching excursions. Beginners will enjoy an easy paddle around Langley Harbor to gape at the views of the Cascades, while half-day adventures may include encounters with seals, sea lions, or even grey whales. Night tours into Saratoga Passage on moonless nights offer the chance to see bioluminescent creatures put on a sublime light show.

And for the ultimate Langley hangout spot, everything goes down at 2nd Street Plaza—it’s surrounded by great coffee houses and restaurants, as well as the town’s local grocer. There’s even a community feast there once a year.

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Where to Eat and Drink

Chef Matt Costello put Langley on the world’s culinary map with his remarkable dinners at Inn at Langley. It’s worth a stay just for the experience (okay, the views are pretty sweet as well). In town, make a reservation early if you want to experience farm-to-table dining and paired cocktails and beer at the Roaming Radish’s R2 Gastropub, located in a converted aircraft hanger. Walk-ins are welcome at Prima Bistro, which serves imaginative cuisine that blends the influences of French cooking with the foods and traditions of the Pacific Northwest, served alongside an extensive menu of high-end wines by the glass. And to keep the day moving along, Useless Bay Coffee Company is a community stalwart and the home of terrific local roasting and sure-handed brewing.

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Where to Stay

Come for bed and breakfast and you’ll want to stay for dinner at the Inn at Langley. Rustically refined suites overlook Saratoga Passage and pamper with jetted tubs and fireplaces when you’re not enjoying a massage or facial at the inn’s boutique spa. Chef Matt Costello draws from the inn’s own gardens and other Whidbey Island growers to prepare single-seating, prix-fixe dinners as well as the inn’s daily complementary breakfast.